Friday, November 28, 2014

Surprises, Executive Orders, and Captain the Cat

There's a new post on November Surprises blog! To read about Lucy's explicit affair (with a cat) click here.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Cystic Fibrosis in The Next Breath

Today is Thanksgiving, and as most families do, tonight we went around the table and spoke about what we are thankful for. I said that, above all, I am thankful for my health and for my family's health. I am one of several million parents who feel this way and I am lucky. I especially realize this now, since learning so much about cystic fibrosis while writing The Next Breath.

I knew very little about cystic fibrosis before I started writing The Next Breath and I don’t personally know anyone who has it. So why did I decide to write about it? Well, I wanted to put my main character, Robin, in the situation of loving someone whom she felt destined to lose. I thought it would be a good back story for her, and it would explain why present-day Robin is at once so wise and stunted.

But the more I read about cystic fibrosis, the more I realized how important it was to depict this illness realistically. People don’t die suddenly from it and there so much that patients need to do on a daily basis, like airway clearance and taking lots of medication. Their digestive systems suffer along with their lungs, and children with CF are often in and out of the hospital for weeks at a time. And when it comes to lung transplants, well, they’re the most risky type of transplant, and getting one brings on a host of all-new considerations, so CF patients really need to think hard before making that decision.

I was amazed at the generosity of so many people with CF, who share their stories online. That is where I got a lot of my research: from reading the CF blogs. The young woman who blew it out of the water was Eva Markvoort, who ran the blog, The blog still exists, but sadly, Eva died in 2010. She chronicled everything, and her brave video “goodbye” to all her readers is heartbreaking. She was suffering from chronic rejection three years after her lung transplant, and she had been told that she wouldn’t recover. But she was an amazing woman: loving, strong, and an incredible writer. There is also a documentary about her, which streams on Netflix, called 65 Red Roses. (Parents often teach their children to say “cystic fibrosis” by telling them to say “65 Roses,” hence the title. Eva added in “red” because it was her favorite color.)

Parts of The Next Breath that were really challenging to write were Jed’s hospital scenes. I wanted someone who suffers from CF to be able to read it and say, “Yeah, that’s realistic.” I also wanted someone who loves someone with CF to be able to say, “Yeah, that’s how Catherine and Robin would act.”

In the end, cystic fibrosis is only one part of The Next Breath. My aim was to write a story about loss and recovery, strength of spirit, and the power of love. I hope that’s what I did, but in the process I learned so much about what true bravery and strength really are. And I learned that even still, there’s so much that I don’t know.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Kindle Quest 2014: Dear Daughter and Bittersweet

Well, the year is coming to a close, and I've definitely downloaded more books than I've read. And as long as Book Bub, Book Gorilla, and Pixel of Ink continue to send me emails everyday with all these incredible deals, that is a trend that will only continue. Still, I've read a lot of the books I've downloaded; what I've really been negligent on is blogging about them. So, here you go, world! Two book reviews! :)

Dear Daughter, by Elizabeth Little, is supposed to be this year’s Gone Girl – at least that’s what the blurb said. It’s about Jane Jenkins, a Paris Hilton type who gets convicted for her mother’s murder, and then, ten years later, released on a technicality. However, Jane’s troubles are far from over, because the world still thinks she’s guilty, and bloggers and haters are determined to find her and bring her down. So Jane travels, in disguise, to the town where her mother grew up to look for clues and to see if she can figure out who the real killer is.
I had mixed feelings about this book. A couple of times I considered giving up in the middle, because it took me a while to care about Jane, and parts of the story dragged. However, once I got into the middle of the story, things picked up and the reader was supplied with more information about why Jane was so jaded, and I liked her more.
I did find a lot of it implausible, especially how she could have dated  all these famous men by the time she was sixteen. But the writing was ultra clever and tight, and the plot twists were well done. Does it live up to the Gone Girl comparison? Not quite, however, a lot of readers will be equally frustrated with both book’s endings, so if you decide to take a stab at it – BEWARE!

Bittersweet, by Miranda Beverly Whittermore, is another suspenseful story of privilege gone wrong. Mabel’s roommate, Genevra, comes from an elite, white-bread family, and Mabel wants nothing more than to be a part of them. So she jumps at the chance to spend the summer with them on their compound, and the entire time she’s there, Mabel tries to figure a way to become a permanent fixture in the family. This includes chatting up an eccentric aunt, falling for Genevra’s older brother, befriending her younger sister, and doing research on the family’s history. But the more research Mabel uncovers and the longer the summer stay becomes, the closer she gets to unearthing the deep, dark secrets that could bring the entire family down!

I liked this book a lot. A few times the pacing was a bit slow, but the prose was beautifully done, and Mabel really grew on me as the book wore on. The ending brought together all the plot points, and culminated in a satisfying end. I definitely recommend it. This is the sort of book that will still be good ten years from now, when it’s no longer trendy.